Sir Sean Connery died in his sleep over the weekend at his home in Nassau, the Bahamas. He was 90 years old, and had been in failing health for some time.
His seven movies as James Bond are indelibly part of film history.
Did anyone play 007 any better?
That’s a discussion for another day.
Our Monday Quiz memorial tribute to Connery is focused largely on the movies he made as a young struggling actor trying to get a grip on a business not especially congenial to someone from a Scotch working class backround (his mother a cleaning lady, his father a truck driver) not inclined to the traditional classical acting of the British stage.
Connery’s pre-Bond work (both movie and tv) in the Fifties is an eclectic mix of dramas, comedies and, yes, a bit of Shakespeare. He was always an interesting actor, and became internationally so after 1962’s Dr. No when he first picked up that Walther PPK gun and started slurping vodka martinis.
It occurs that without the seven James Bond pictures he made, Connery would have had a solid career as an accomplished working actor highlighting a variety of genres from war pictures to elfin fantasies to Shakespeare and outright comedies.
But his stint as 007 — initially opposed by Bond creator Ian Fleming — made Connery an instant international celebrity and major star. (He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in July of 2000.)
We don’t begrudge him that big star status for an nanosecond. Nonetheless, our Monday Quiz focuses on his movies before he showed up on the set of 1962’s Dr. No.
How much do you know about the pre-Bond Connery. We invite you to take our quiz and find out. And be sure to toast his memory with something shaken, not stirred.
1) Question: Connery was always a physically active actor with an athletic past. What type of sporting activity did he pursue before he became an actor? a) Boxing; b) Soccer; c) Martial Arts; or d) Bodybuilding.
1) Answer: b) and d). While Connery always played football (soccer to us in the U.S.), he was fascinated with bodybuilding as a teenager, and once entered a “Mr. Universe” competition.
2) Question: During the late Fifties, Connery appeared (briefly) in an episode of an extended tv series featuring one of American’s finest classic comedians. Who is this comedian? a) Eddie Cantor; b) Jackie Gleason; c) Jack Benny or d) Bob Hope.
2) Answer: c) Connery appeared in the small role as a porter in a 1957 episode of tv’s The Jack Benny Program. It was titled Jack Hires An Opera Singer in Rome.
3) Question: Who was Connery’s female costar in what is considered as his first big Hollywood movie? a) Hedy Lamarr; b) Joan Crawford; c) Tippi Hedren; or d) Lana Turner.
3) Answer: d) Lana Turner in 1958’s Another Time, Another Place. Off-camera, Connery had to cope with Lana’s jealous boyfriend at the time, gangster Johnny Stompanato. (That’s Lana with Connery in the photo below.)
4) Question: Connery actually played Tarzan in one of the later movies about the King of the Jungle. a) True; b) False?
4) Answer: b) False. Connery costarred as a bad guy in 1959’s Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure but Gordon Scott played the title role.
5) Question: Connery’s very first Hollywood film was produced by an unlikely source. Can you name the movie and who produced it?
5) Answer: Walt Disney produced the 1959 family fantasy, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, and treated Connery like a star. The actor also appeared on the tv series, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.
6) Question: At one point in his pre-Bond career, Connery seriously considered a singing career in England. a) True; b) False?
6) Answer: b) False. Connery had no illusions about his singing, but his vocalizing on the Pretty Irish Girl tune he sang in Darby O’Gill and the Little People was released as single in the U.K
7) Question: Although Connery downplays his classical acting credentials, he confessed to spending much of his time reading plays in libraries while he was a Fifties bit actor in touring companies in the U.K. And one of his noteworthy Shakespearean roles pre-James Bond showed off the result. Which Shakespearean character did he portray? a) Hamlet; b) King Lear; c) Iago or d) Macbeth.
7)Answer: d) Connery played the title role in the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s 1961 telecast of Macbeth opposite Zoe Caldwell. The actor was Scotch after all.
8) Question: Which of the following best describes the relationship between Connery and Alfred Hitchcock (pictured with Connery below), who directed 1964’s Marnie, one of Connery’s best remembered post-Bond films? a) Intense mutual dislike; b) Fear on Connery’s part, arrogance on Hitchock’s; c) Altogether an easy rapport; or d) Mutual indifference.
8) Answer: c) Connery and Alfred Hitchcock got along well during the Marnie shooting. The director appreciated the actor’s relaxed attitude and absence of star ego.
9) Question: Connery spent two days filming a supporting role in which one of the following Hollywood epics. a) The Longest Day, b) Ben Hur; c) Spartacus; or d) The Ten Commandments.
9) Answer: a) The Longest Day.
10) Question: In 1957, Connery costarred with French actress Martine Carol in a gritty adventure saga, Action of the Tiger, filmed in Europe under the production aegis of one Hollywood’s most cheery and wholesome actors. Who is he? a) Jackie Cooper; b) Fred Astaire; c) Van Johnson; or d) Gene Kelly.
10) Answer: c) The unlikely producer of 1957’s Action of the Tiger was its star, Van Johnson. And the distributor, MGM, was the studio where Johnson had flourished. Although not listed by name as a producer, his company, Van Johnson Enterprises, is.
Farewell, Sir Sean.